Last updated: August 9, 2021

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People often talk about a vitamin deficiency when they have frequent colds, are constantly tired and lack energy, or have bad skin, nails or hair. At least, that is how it is explained to us in the advertisements of numerous vitamin manufacturers. Few people, however, have their vitamin content in the body tested and simply buy them blindly in a supermarket, drugstore or pharmacy.

If you want to get to grips with this topic, you have come to the right place. In our big immune booster test 2021 we have done in-depth, neural research and found out what immune boosters are, how they work, who might need them and much more. We also give you scientifically proven tips on how to support your immune system and prepare a natural immune booster yourself. Enjoy reading and stay healthy.




Summary

  • Immune boosters are preparations containing various vitamins and/or minerals and serve as food supplements. Manufacturers promise consumers the strengthening of the immune system and defences as well as prevention of diseases and avitaminosis (vitamin deficiency).
  • Doctors and nutritionists explain that the probability of becoming malnourished in developed countries like Germany is very low. Consequently, it is very unlikely to suffer from a vitamin deficiency and have an additional need for vitamins and minerals in tablets or in some other form. If one is ill or immunodeficient, one should be advised and treated individually by a specialist.
  • The following things are important for an intact immune system: a healthy, balanced diet, moderate sporting activities, little stress and sufficient sleep. In addition, you can prepare natural immune boosters yourself at home, with very simple ingredients that can be found in almost every household.

The Best Immune Booster: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for immune boosters

More and more people are interested in their health and are looking for ways and preparations that can strengthen their immune system. For this reason, the selection of immune boosters on the market is constantly growing.
In order not to lose the overview, we have listed criteria for you that you should consider when looking for an immune booster product.

In summary, these are:

By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you don't give your body anything it doesn't need. Therefore, always look for high quality and, if necessary, ask to see the manufacturer's certificates.

Dosage form

The form in which you take immune booster products is entirely up to your taste and preferences. The most common form, however, is tablets and capsules. These are produced in different sizes and shapes, which makes them difficult for some people to swallow.

If you also dislike taking tablets or capsules, you can choose between drinkable vials, granules, drops, syrups, injectables and powders. Drops, granules and syrups can usually be taken without liquid and are therefore convenient for on the go. With a powder, you can make a vitamin drink in the morning and then drink it for as long as you like.

Dosage

There are certain guidelines and information on the maximum daily dose of vitamins that should be taken daily in food. In Germany, the so-called DACH reference values are used for application, which were jointly developed by the German (D), the Austrian (A) and the Swiss (CH) Society for Nutrition. (1)

The German Nutrition Society e. V. (DGE) published the D-A-CH reference values for nutrient intake in April 2019 together with the Austrian (ÖGE) and Swiss (SGE) nutrition societies. These values represent the amount of energy and nutrients recommended for healthy people. People suffering from diseases or nutrient deficiencies should be advised and treated individually.

Zinc and vitamin C are usually referred to as immune boosters, but there are other minerals and vitamins that can support the immune system. The need for zinc, for example, depends on the amount of phytate in the diet. Phytate is mainly found in plant foods such as legumes or whole grains: When ingested, they form compounds with zinc in the gastrointestinal tract that the human body cannot absorb and utilise. The more phytic acid there is in the food, the more zinc the body needs.
Vitamin C cannot be taken in excess, as the overdosed water-soluble vitamin is simply excreted in urine. (2)

Incidentally, the therapeutic dose in the case of a nutrient deficiency or disease is usually higher than the reference value. In general, however, megadoses should be avoided.

Purpose

It's what everyone dreams of: taking a small tablet every day and ridding themselves of viruses, flu, sore throats, dandruff or aching limbs forever. For this reason, dietary supplements or so-called immune boosters are easy to market. But do they really do what they promise?

Independent doctors, pharmacists and immunologists are of the same opinion on this: rather not. In fact, there are certain forms of immune deficiencies, such as genetic defects, certain diseases or consequences of long-term use of medications, due to which the body's own immune system cannot function fully.

"However, those who are affected by a real immune deficiency are not helped at all by over-the-counter remedies," says Professor Ferdinand Gerlach, Director of the Institute for General Medicine at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. "What is offered as immune stimulants against respiratory infections can only be aimed at actually healthy people with an intact immune system." (3)

All vitamins are rather used for the prevention and treatment of vitamin deficiencies (hypovitaminosis and avitaminosis) and as food supplements. In addition, all vitamins have other medicinal uses, usually related to their metabolic function. For example, vitamin A for skin diseases, vitamin K2 for the prevention of osteoporosis, niacin for fat metabolism disorders, pyridoxine for nausea and riboflavin for the prevention of migraine. (4)

Ingredients

In reality, the undersupply of vitamins and minerals is practically impossible in developed countries like Germany. (5) Even if someone is actually lacking in minerals or vitamins, it is not necessary to take in countless micronutrients at the same time. It is recommended to supplement only the specific substance that is missing. However, this is only possible under medical supervision. According to Professor Gerlach, the manufacturer's special combinations of several substances do not cause any special effects.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying immune boosters

In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of immune boosters and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What are immune boosters and how do they work?

Immune boosters are preparations containing various vitamins and minerals that promise to activate the immune system's defences and thus increase the body's resistance to bacteria, viruses and fungi. Billions of organisms live in each of us, which are controlled by our immune system and whether we get sick or not depends on it.

The basis of a healthy immune system of a person is a balanced diet, which should contain all the necessary substances for the organism, such as minerals (especially iron, zinc and selenium) and vitamins.
Most manufacturers make "cocktails" of many different substances, which you should know so that you do not feed your body anything unnecessary.

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential micronutrients and play an important role in the body as components for enzymes, hormones and antioxidants. They are taken in small amounts with food. They are also differentiated between fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and water-soluble vitamins (B-complex, C). Vitamin deficiency causes characteristic diseases. (6)

Vitamin (7) Effect
Vitamin C The most important vitamin. It fights free radicals, contributes to bacterial defence and promotes the activation of defence cells.
Vitamin A It helps to moisten the surfaces of the mucous membranes, which massively increases their defensive power. In addition, it supports the fight against free radicals.
Beta-carotene It belongs to the vitamin A family and helps stimulate antibodies and fight free radicals.
Vitamin E It helps to build antibodies and activate them.
Vitamin B It contributes to the production of antibodies. It also helps to train them against viruses, bacteria and pathogens.
Folic acids they support the formation and activation of antibodies.
Vitamin D it supports the healthy and strong immune system and stabilises its functionality.

Minerals

Your immune system needs not only vitamins to function properly, but also minerals. Although they are only needed in small amounts, they are just as important as vitamins. By the way, minerals are also called trace elements. Here is the list of minerals that keep your immune system intact:

Mineral (8) Effect
Iron This important substance helps carry oxygen in blood.
Copper It helps create hormones in the thymus gland. This gland is also responsible for the formation of defence cells (or T-cells).
Magnesium It makes the T-cells more mobile and permeable. Magnesium also facilitates the formation of defence cells.
Selenium Selenium helps the T-cells to catch free radicals. This detoxifies the body.
Zinc It helps to form memory cells as well as waste cells.

When and for whom does it make sense to take immune boosters?

According to a representative study conducted by the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Ernährung e.V.) in February 2012, "the vast majority of people in Germany are adequately supplied with vitamins". (9)
However, for advertising purposes, the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacies like to associate various bodily reactions such as tiredness, headaches or impure skin with vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies. For this reason, many people, especially in winter or spring, think that the illnesses that have occurred are linked to the deficiency and independently reach for the first possible vitamin cocktail on the pharmacy shelf.

Moreover, thanks to the well thought-out marketing, people believe that they can compensate for the negative health consequences of an unfavourable diet or bad habits with the vitamins. However, the study mentioned above could not find any supporting results for this. Furthermore, it has been proven that there is an increased health risk from taking immune booster products, especially if the preparations are taken in high doses and over a long period of time.

Immunbooster-1

Doctors and nutritionists explain that most vitamin supplements contain far too high doses of substances. This leads to negative effects on the body and health.
(Image source: Freestocks on Unsplash)

The researchers of the German Nutrition Society recommend supplementing the diet with minerals and vitamins only in the following situations or persons:

  • Newborns: 3 times 2 mg vitamin K.
  • Babies: 10 µg vitamin D and 0.25 mg fluoride daily.
  • Women who want to become pregnant: 400 µg folic acid per day.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 100 - 150 µg iodide daily and iron in case of iron deficiency (after consulting your doctor).
  • People who rarely go outside and thus have too little sun vitamin in their body: Vitamin D.

If you are too often burdened by illness or lack of strength, first of all consult your doctor before buying an immune booster.

What are the possible side effects of taking immune boosters?

Many manufacturers advertise their products as being rich in vitamins and nutrients in order to attract more customers with these health claims. When buying such products, consumers believe they are doing something good for their own bodies with these extra vitamins and minerals. However, nutrition experts have found that many substances are taken in excessively, which puts health at risk. Many medical experts are also critical of this. Individual vitamins and minerals are often overdosed and can permanently damage the body.

As we have already described above, immune boosters can be useful in various cases. However, you should be well informed about how dangerous an overdose is. Below we list a few examples from the study of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. (10)

  • Vitamin A: It is recommended to be careful when taking this substance. The risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases increases in smokers from as little as 20 mg a day. A permanent overdose can damage the bone structure.
  • Vitamin D: Diarrhoea, vomiting and acute headaches are the actual body reactions to an overdose of this vitamin. Those who take too much vitamin D for a long time must expect calcium deposits in blood vessels and various organs as well as kidney damage. The risk of pancreatic cancer also increases.
  • Vitamin E: Very high doses of vitamin E increase the risk of prostate cancer. Various studies have also found that they can cause premature death.
  • Folic acid: This is often prescribed to pregnant women, but it is very harmful for men. Taking folic acid increases the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Copper: According to several studies, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises against food supplements containing copper. The results show that this additive increases earlier mortality by up to 18%.
  • Selenium: An American study published in 2007 by the American Diabetes Association (11) shows that excessive intake of selenium increases the risk of diabetes and increases the body's resistance to insulin and other diabetes medications.

How much do immune boosters cost?

We have already explained that immune boosters are available in different forms. The price also varies. During our research, we found that drops are the most expensive. These and powdered immune boosters are the most attractive to most consumers because of convenience. They are also often advertised as vegan or vegetarian and gluten and lactose free, which can increase the price due to marketing.

Product type Price
Tablet form approx. 4-40 €
Drops approx. 20-60 €
Powder approx. 9-16 €
Syrup approx. 14-40 €

If you are looking for immune-boosting products, make sure to check the quality and reliability of the manufacturer. Don't buy anything you can't verify.

How can you properly absorb the vitamins and minerals in immune boosters?

In order to provide your body and your immune system with sufficient vitamins and minerals, you should eat a healthy and balanced diet. (12) Most of the valuable substances are found in fruit and vegetables, and here we give you a few tips on which foods you should definitely consider:

  • You can find a lot of vitamin C in broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, fennel and citrus fruits (18)
  • The sun vitamin D is also found in fatty fish.
  • Olive oil contains vitamin E and meat and dairy products are rich in vitamin A.
  • Green vegetables are a rich source of B vitamins.
  • If you want to fill up on folic acids, zinc, copper, magnesium as well as iron, be sure to supplement with legumes and liver.
  • Selenium can be found in eggs, fish and liver.

You may be wondering how much of these foods you should eat each day to stay healthy. In an interview with Stiftung Gesundheitswissen, Prof. Dr. Gerd Antes (former director of the German Cochrane Centre) (17) points out that there are no general dietary recommendations. Since the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals is very individual, scientists cannot set concrete guidelines.

How can you make your own immune boosters?

In addition to the healthy foods mentioned above, there are two well-known products that have been used as immune system boosters for thousands of years: Ginger with lemon. Scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Food Systems Biology in Munich have studied various flavours (13), including those of ginger and lemon, to learn more about the influence of individual food additives on the oral flora and saliva.

Meanwhile, the scientists found that ginger triples the number of antibacterial and antifungal substances in the oral cavity and lemon increases it tenfold.

"Our new findings show that taste-giving substances already have biological effects in the oral cavity that go far beyond their known sensory properties," says study leader Prof. Thomas Hofmann.

This result also explains why ginger and lemon are traditionally used to strengthen the immune system and the body's defences. In general, you can find numerous recipes of homemade immune cocktails with various ingredients that you can also find at home. All of these can very well replace immune boosters from pharmaceutical companies.

What are the alternatives to immune boosters?

We have already shown you that an intact immune system does not need additional immune boosters in the form of tablets, capsules, etc.. However, a healthy and balanced diet is only one part of the whole. Since our body and the immune system is a complex mechanism, you should also take the following things into account and incorporate them into your daily routine in order to stay really vital and fit:

Sleep

Scientists at the University of Tübingen and the University of Lübeck (14) have researched the influence of sleep deprivation on our immune system and found that after only three hours without sleep, the functionality of the T-cells (white blood cells that are responsible for our defences) is massively impaired. So make sure you get enough sleep to meet your daily needs.

Sport

Moderate sporting activities have a positive effect on the immune system and the body's defences. (15) No matter what kind of sport you do: Yoga, jogging or hiking, they should not push you to your physical limit. During intense exercise, the production of immune cells increases dramatically, but during the resting phase their number decreases rapidly. Thus, your body receives far fewer immune cells after sport than before.

Immunbooster-2

To combat the lack of exercise, you should get out into the fresh air more often, try a new type of sport or find a sporting hobby. Any activity, if moderate, will help make you stronger and fitter.
(Image source: Alexander Redl on Unsplash)

Low stress.

Prolonged stress not only takes a toll on mental health, but also on the immune system. (16) These two systems are closely linked. When you suffer from chronic stress, you also become much more susceptible to infections. At the same time, a physical illness can cause various mental illness symptoms. Good social contacts, recognition, self-confidence, sports, meditation and breathing exercises can reduce stress levels and balance mental as well as physical health.

Image source: puhhha/ 123rf.com

References (18)

1. Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York. Anwendung der D-A-CH-Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr.
Source

2. Cynthia Möthrath, Apotheke Adhoc. "Der gewisse Push für das Immunsystem".
Source

3. GEO Wissen: Wann Präparate zur Stärkung der Abwehrkräfte wirklich etwas bringen - und wann nicht.
Source

4. PharmaWiki: Vitamine.
Source

5. Walther Fischer, Paul György, Berthold Kibu, Wolfgang Stepp: "Avitaminose und verwandte Krankheitszustände".
Source

6. J. Rodrigo Mora, Makoto Iwata and Ulrich H. von Andrian: Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage.
Source

7. Wikipedia: Vitaminbedarf und Vorkommen.
Source

8. Wikipedia: Mineralstoff.
Source

9. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.: Deutschland ist kein Vitaminmangelland.
Source

10. Institut für Risikobewertung: Höchstmengen für Vitamine und Mineralstoffe in Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln.
Source

11. American Diabetes Assiation, Joachim Bleys, MD, MPH1, Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PHD2 and Eliseo Guallar, MD, DRPH1: "Serum Selenium and Diabetes in U.S. Adults.
Source

12. Eat Smarter, Dr. Alexa Iwan: Esst! Mehr! Gemüse!
Source

13. Gesundheitsstadt Berlin: Studie zum Einfluss von Ingwer und Zitrone auf das Immunsystem.
Source

14. Journal of Experimental Medicine, Stoyan Dimitrov, Tanja Lange, Cécile Gouttefangeas, Anja T.R. Jensen, Michael Szczepanski, Jannik Lehnnolz, Surjo Soekadar, Hans-Georg Rammensee, Jan Born, Luciana Besedovsky: Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells.
Source

15. Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Matthias Baum und Heinz Liesen: Sport und Immunsystem.
Source

16. Neurologen und Psychiater im Netz: "Chronischer Stress schwächt das Immunsystem".
Source

17. Stiftung Gesundheitswissen, Interview mit Prof. Dr. Gerd Antes: "Gesunde Ernährung: Warum sich die Wissenschaft mit Empfehlungen schwer tut."
Source

18. National Libraray of Medicine, Eva S Wintergerst, Silvia Maggini, Dietrich H Hornig: "Immune-enhancing Role of Vitamin C and Zin and Effect on Clinical Conditions.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Artikel aus der Zeitschrift für Ernährung & Medizin
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York. Anwendung der D-A-CH-Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Cynthia Möthrath, Apotheke Adhoc. "Der gewisse Push für das Immunsystem".
Go to source
Gesundheitlicher Artikel
GEO Wissen: Wann Präparate zur Stärkung der Abwehrkräfte wirklich etwas bringen - und wann nicht.
Go to source
Artikel zu Vitaminen aus PharmaWiki
PharmaWiki: Vitamine.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliches Buch
Walther Fischer, Paul György, Berthold Kibu, Wolfgang Stepp: "Avitaminose und verwandte Krankheitszustände".
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
J. Rodrigo Mora, Makoto Iwata and Ulrich H. von Andrian: Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage.
Go to source
Tabelle auf Wikipedia
Wikipedia: Vitaminbedarf und Vorkommen.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel auf Wikipedia
Wikipedia: Mineralstoff.
Go to source
Artikel von der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.: Deutschland ist kein Vitaminmangelland.
Go to source
Artikel vom Institut für Risikobewertung
Institut für Risikobewertung: Höchstmengen für Vitamine und Mineralstoffe in Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche, amerikanische Studie
American Diabetes Assiation, Joachim Bleys, MD, MPH1, Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PHD2 and Eliseo Guallar, MD, DRPH1: "Serum Selenium and Diabetes in U.S. Adults.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Eat Smarter, Dr. Alexa Iwan: Esst! Mehr! Gemüse!
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Gesundheitsstadt Berlin: Studie zum Einfluss von Ingwer und Zitrone auf das Immunsystem.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Journal of Experimental Medicine, Stoyan Dimitrov, Tanja Lange, Cécile Gouttefangeas, Anja T.R. Jensen, Michael Szczepanski, Jannik Lehnnolz, Surjo Soekadar, Hans-Georg Rammensee, Jan Born, Luciana Besedovsky: Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Matthias Baum und Heinz Liesen: Sport und Immunsystem.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Neurologen und Psychiater im Netz: "Chronischer Stress schwächt das Immunsystem".
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Stiftung Gesundheitswissen, Interview mit Prof. Dr. Gerd Antes: "Gesunde Ernährung: Warum sich die Wissenschaft mit Empfehlungen schwer tut."
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
National Libraray of Medicine, Eva S Wintergerst, Silvia Maggini, Dietrich H Hornig: "Immune-enhancing Role of Vitamin C and Zin and Effect on Clinical Conditions.
Go to source
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